As Og Mandino said it, “Good habits are the key to all success.”
At some point in our lives, we all encounter that one person who is able to finish everything ahead of time. This person may be a friend, a classmate, or a colleague, but whoever he/she may be, they are always efficient personified.
While one can only lament how such a person can be so motivated, it is not motivation that does the trick. What one needs is as simple as developing a set of good habits to become more productive and efficient.
So what are these good habits? How do they do it?
Productive People With Good Habits
Highly productive individuals are equipped with good habits that make working (or studying) efficient for them. It’s not impossible to learn and adopt these good habits; these are developed in due time, after all.
To become more productive, arm yourself with some good habits and remain efficient as you accomplish tasks. Good habits don’t develop overnight, so it will help to start small at first. Being able to take that one little step towards change is better than not doing anything at all. Put these changes into place and you’ll already be on your way to being more efficient than you were yesterday.
1. The MIT
MIT simply means “Most Important Tasks.”
Most of us, on a daily basis, have a habit of writing down the day’s to-do list. Though helpful, to-do lists are often composed of both important and not-so-important tasks. As appealing as it can be to check off items from your list, doing so without any method to it won’t allow you to work at your most efficient.
By checking items chronologically, you will be left with a list of priority tasks mixed in with more trivial ones. In fact, many people have a habit of working on the easiest tasks first. You might feel more accomplished by marking off more tasks on your to-do list, but in actuality, doing so may cause you to further delay working on obligations that require your immediate attention. This may consequently lead to unfinished tasks at the end of the day and creates more room for procrastination.
Before working on your tasks, take a good look at your list. Identify which of these tasks are MITs and need to be finished within the day. This ensures that you are able to finish the most important ones first and foremost. With this approach, you will have more time to work on less crucial tasks later on.
2. Do Not Multitask
We may have been led to believe it is good to multitask, but research shows that it significantly slows you down. It also leads to poor performance, which can subsequently churn out poor-quality output.
Multitasking leads us to believe that we are getting more tasks done. What we don’t know is that pursuing a multitude of things simultaneously can actually hinder our cognitive processing.
Of course, if the tasks in question are mundane in nature — such as cooking while catching up on your reading — then multitasking can be great. But if the tasks involve more brain power and focus, then multitasking can become more of a hindrance.
To maximize your efforts and get the best results, we recommend that you focus on one task at a time. Only upon completing a task can you move on to the next. Don’t fall into the temptation of multitasking. You might think you’re saving on time, but doing so comes at the price of sacrificing the quality of your work.
3. Minimize Your Inbox
Emails are amazing tools. They make communication much more efficient. But as convenient as they are, emails can also be a form of distraction.
A lot of people spend their work days with their inboxes open. Whether it be on a messenger app or on the email inbox, having these platforms open in the background can create distractions to your work. Chances are, when you have your email and/or messenger app open, you are bound to reply to every message that comes in.
To reiterate, deep focus and concentration are crucial to finish difficult tasks at the end of the day. Thus, minimizing your inbox can eliminate another potential distraction to your workflow. Set a schedule to check messages at specific intervals to avoid a build-up of unread messages whilst maintaining your current workflow.
4. Rid Yourself Of Other Distractions
Facebook and Twitter are just some of the many unwanted distractions that can hinder you from finishing things on time. How many times have you paused from work and checked social media, only to find out you’ve already spent an hour browsing through timelines and profiles without knowing it? Similarly, how many times have you tried working in an environment that was too noisy and left no room for focus nor productivity?
One of the good habits you should have is to know how to block out unwanted distractions. Wear headphones if you find yourself in a noisy environment, or move away from that chatterbox co-worker if you have a deadline to meet. There’s also no shame in being unable to resist social media. We recommend using certain time management apps to help you get rid of distractions in order to stay focused and on track with your work schedule.
5. Jot Everything Down
Minor distractions may remain prevalent no matter how much you try to maintain efficient work habits. Sometimes, these distractions manifest not through social media or recreational activities, but through the thoughts that suddenly pop up in your mind.
While working, you may suddenly remember to book that restaurant for your anniversary dinner. Or perhaps you were in the middle of a conference call when you remembered an electric bill that needs to be paid before the week is over. As insignificant as these tasks might seem — especially next to your priority assignments — they are still valid. Without a doubt, these tasks require your attention. They just don’t need to be attended to immediately.
To balance things out and stay organized, we recommend always having a pen and some paper with you. If a minor task suddenly comes to mind, write it down. You can even keep a journal and a good pen on you at all times to stay prepared for these sudden mental intrusions.
By staying prepared, you can take note of any sudden changes in your schedule or new tasks that may come up throughout the day. This can ensure that your jumbled thoughts won’t disrupt your focus and will not take you away from your current momentum.
6. Use The Eisenhower Matrix
Utilized by Dwight Eisenhower when he was still a general, the Eisenhower Matrix saw popularity when it was featured in Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
The Eisenhower Matrix, a square divided into four quadrants, helps you determine the tasks that need to be prioritized and those that you need to disregard for the time being.
To make the Eisenhower Matrix, draw a 2 x 2 square. Label one axis “Important” and “Not Important.” The other axis should be named “Urgent” and “Not Urgent.” When writing down your tasks, organize them based on their urgency and importance. This can help you identify the tasks you need to work on as soon as possible.
Are you spending most of your day doing the urgent but not important? Then these are tasks that you can perhaps afford to delegate to other people. Are you spending a lot of time on objectives that are not important nor urgent? Then perhaps you can set them aside for now.
The Eisenhower Matrix makes it easier for you to identify which of your tasks really matter in the grand scheme of things and which of them do not. If you struggle when it comes to identifying your MITs in your to-do list, utilizing the Eisenhower Matrix can help you narrow things down.
7. Break The Tasks
Why do so many of us continue to procrastinate to this day? That always seems to be the million dollar question. One of the reasons procrastination continues to be an issue is due to how overwhelming major tasks can be. It can be especially daunting when you don’t even know where to start.
One approach to making big tasks less intimidating is to break them into smaller ones. Yes, your list may end up being a bit lengthier than you originally anticipated. However, breaking things down into smaller tasks has its advantages.
For starters, you will be left with more specific tasks. This can help give your to-do list more direction and will make it easier for you to know where to start. Another advantage to breaking down tasks is how much easier it can be to finish smaller jobs. These small tasks might seem menial, but they ultimately add up to the accomplishment of your more major duties.
Let’s put things into context: place yourself in a situation where you need to finish this quarter’s financial report. Where will you even begin with it?
Breaking the financial report task into smaller pieces lets you identify the smaller and easier things you can do. Start with a monthly report. Identify the wins and challenges for each month. In the end, you can always consolidate everything and submit a much more detailed one later on.
8. Celebrate The Little Things
What better way to motivate yourself than to give yourself a pat on the back for a good day’s work? One of the good habits we recommend is to reward yourself, particularly when you’ve accomplished big tasks. These celebrations don’t have to be elaborate or fancy; even just taking a break can count to rewarding yourself. Be your own champion in order to motivate yourself to not only get things done, but to actually accomplish your work in the best way possible.
9. Don’t Wait For Motivation
Why wait for motivation or inspiration to strike when you can instead use that time to get a start on your responsibilities right away? Many may often find themselves unmotivated to start working, but it should be noted that motivation often follows productivity.
One of the good habits you can have is to take the initiative to work without waiting to feel inspired or motivated. Even the simplest of tasks will count towards getting started on work. Actually starting on work can sometimes be your biggest hurdle, so beginning with even just a minor task can help you get the ball rolling.
10. Eat Smart
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), eating right is good for the brain. A good diet can affect multiple brain processes. In short, eating the right kinds of food can boost brain power to a certain level.
This is one of the reasons why it is important to eat right. If you want to be productive, cut down on sugary snacks that not only make you crash, but add more pounds to the scale. Amplify on foods that give you much-needed nutrients instead.
On that note, actually eating meals will be just as important as eating healthy. Make it a good habit to never skip meals no matter how busy you might be. Skipping meals can only make you fatigued, fuzzy-minded, and irritable. Such traits won’t be conducive to productivity, so make sure you’re eating right and on time.
11. Learn From The Good And The Bad
Good habits can come from an extensive learning process. Some good habits call for a method of trial and error before being fully integrated into your own lifestyle. With that said, it will be important to learn not just from your mistakes, but from your triumphs as well.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, as they make for great opportunities to learn and develop improved approaches to tackling problems. Similarly, taking note of your successes can help you determine what sort of good habits and techniques work best for you. Everyone works differently, so what might be successful for one person might not be as effective for another. Consider your failures and triumphs as lessons that enrich you not just as a worker, but as a well-rounded person as well.
12. Use Productivity Apps
Leave it to the latest technology to help boost your productivity.
In the same way a gym isn’t effective without its own set of equipment, your own work can really benefit from the assistance of tools — in this case, productivity apps — as well. They’re especially beneficial to people who struggle to stay focused and may have a tendency to procrastinate.
There are hundreds of apps that can help you with being productive. These can range from apps that help you with reports, to apps that can remind you to take a break, to even apps that manage your emails and so on. Be mindful about the sort of apps you use, because just like with other variables in productivity, not all of them may be suitable for you.
One of the good habits to have involves taking care of yourself. We all know that cardiovascular exercise improves memory, attention span, and creativity. Furthermore, exercise helps keep your heart healthy and even lowers stress. Even just 30 minutes of exercise a day can help improve your mood.
With all these benefits into consideration, there’s no denying how important a role exercise plays in your productivity. Make it a point to incorporate a bit of exercise into your schedule. Doing so will help you stay energized and ready to face the day.
14. Decide On The Important Things
Most of your day is spent making decisions, whether that be in the mornings when you decide on what to wear, or by lunchtime when choosing what to eat. Your days are full of decisions even when you don’t realize it.
Though your days are filled with a ton of decisions that need to be made, it will be important that you save your energy for more important decision making. Don’t dwell too much on minor decisions, such as whether you want tea or coffee. Mulling over such insignificant things can take away precious minutes of your time. Save your energy instead for later when you need to decide on more important matters.
15. Create Repeatable Shortcuts
Don’t feel guilty about taking shortcuts, especially when they can help you get your work done without sacrificing on quality. Having a set of shortcuts can save you a good amount of time and can ultimately help you get more work done. In due time, these shortcuts will turn into a routine that helps alleviate some of your workload.
Tasks that are repetitive in nature are great options for shortcuts. Figure out what can make things quicker for you, whether that be familiarizing yourself with keyboard shortcuts or using technology to automate certain tasks.
16. Start Early
Sometimes getting an early start can help you immensely, especially when you have a lot on your plate as it is. Get an early start to your day to work on small but meaningful tasks. Your mornings can be used to clear up your inbox and respond to some messages. Alternatively, you can use this little pocket of extra time to tidy up in order to create a workspace that promotes productivity. By starting early, you give yourself just a bit more time to work and get things done.
17. Be Prepared For Things To Go Wrong
How many times have you planned on doing a task but end up facing many roadblocks along the way? These hiccups can turn into major thorns on your side if you come in unprepared.
Never underestimate how much time it might take for you to accomplish something. Underestimating how much time you need can lead to you underestimating your own capabilities as well as limitations. This can subsequently cause you to turn a blind eye on potential outcomes or possibilities that may come up throughout the day. Although you can’t see the future, it won’t hurt to stay prepared for any unforeseen events that could affect your work.
Being prepared for possible interruptions is one of the good habits that can help you stay highly productive. By staying prepared, you can create contingency plans that will help you tackle problems that may arise later on.
18. Focus On Yourself In The Mornings
Make sure that you dedicate the beginnings of your day to yourself. If you start on work right off the bat, you might find yourself burnt out and unmotivated sooner than later. Take a few minutes of your morning to relax. Even just a few moments of deep breathing in the shower or meditating in bed can do wonders on your outlook for the rest of the day.
19. Get Better At What You’re Good At
Equip yourself with knowledge and skills that are especially useful to the trade you’re in. If you are into business and finance, then it will help to read more and familiarize yourself with the trade. If you are into sales, equip yourself with the skill set and connections necessary for you to excel in the field.
Only when you are better equipped and knowledgeable will you be able to make better decisions and perform more efficiently. Invest in yourself. Put in the hard work now to help your future self work better and more efficiently.
20. Learn To Say No
Saying yes to everything, especially work opportunities, can be very tempting. However, saying yes all the time may leave you with too many commitments than you are able to handle. This can negatively affect the focus and concentration that you need to produce high-quality work output.
Keep in mind that less can actually be more. You don’t need to put so much on your plate in order to do well and show that you are a good worker. Having fewer projects with quality work will be heaps better than having a large body of work that is poorly executed.
When presented with opportunities and projects, learn to assess. Is this something beyond your capacity? Can you still push yourself into doing more without jeopardizing quality? If you think you still can, then by all means, go ahead. But if you feel that there’s too much for you to handle as it is, then learning how to say no will be more beneficial to you in the long run.
An Extra Good Habit
Learn when to ask for help. This is especially when you are new to a certain project or task. If the task is unclear, ask questions. If you are in need of help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Asking for assistance will be much better than struggling to finish something you don’t even know anything about.
Just be sure to reach out once you’ve exhausted all your other resources. There’s only so much that others can help you with. You also won’t be able to grow to your full potential if you continue to lean on others time and time again. As much of a good habit it is to ask for help, learning WHEN to ask for it will be just as golden.
While most productive and efficient individuals seem like robots or machines, rest assured that they are just as human as the rest of us. What makes them stand out is their mastery of good habits that have helped them overcome challenges in their personal and professional lives. Good habits will help you improve, but great habits are ones that bring you success over time.
So, get started on developing good habits. You’re going to want to improve on yourself today in order to ensure yourself of a much better work performance tomorrow.